Tshockingly, since it was only two minutes ago in January, we have reached the middle of 2022. So a good time to take stock of the culture for the year so far. You may have already read the Guardian’s culture desk summaries, and here are some more, featuring The Guide’s own picks on TV, music and film, along with some of our readers’ favourites. Belt in!
In what was one of the best six months for television I can remember, severance pay (Apple TV+) was the longest. Deep, funny, disturbing and brimming with monstrous twists and turns, this dark comedy-drama about employees who split their brains between work and non-work modes took its concept and really put it to work. Eleven Station‘s (Starzplay) story of a deadly flu pandemic and the world that created it should have been the mother of all turns, but managed to find real joy amid the wreckage.
Continuing our ‘shows starting with S’ theme, Sherwood (BBC One/iPlayer) was the best British drama of the year to date, evoking ghosts from the country’s recent past with its real-life story of murder and rancor in a town ravaged by the miners’ strikes of the United States. eighties. In the meantime pachinko (Apple TV+) — a dazzling multi-generational account of Korean lives in Japan — continued Apple’s stellar year of television, and hacking (Amazon Prime Video) was my favorite comedy of the year so far, with Jean Smart finding new ways to zigzag between ferocity and candor as a veteran comic.
Then Barbara met Alan (BBC Two/iPlayer): Ruth Madeley is brilliant as ever in an under-known story about the fight for the Disability Discrimination Act. † Richard Hamilton
big boys (Channel 4/All 4). Laughably funny, unexpectedly soft and touching, it should be prescribed by the NHS. Six short episodes of utter joy. † Rob Mansfield
Beyoncé has yet to come, but Kendrick Lamar‘s Mr Morale and the Big Steppers is the landmark album of 2022 thus far, lyrically unflinching and dazzling in its ability to bounce between styles, from trap to jazz to trip hop and more. The weekend produced his best work since his heyday in House of Balloons with Dawn FM, an eerie yet endlessly melodic concept work built around a purgatory radio station and featuring an inspired guest appearance from, of all people, Jim Carrey.
Nilufer Yanya‘s Painless, 12 songs of propelling moody indie soul, marked the West London musician as one of our most exciting new talents, while another artist who took guitar music in exciting new forms was Bartees Strange, whose album Farm to Table showed that he is just as adept at high-altitude springstone rock as he is in Auto-Tuned R&B. Elsewhere, drug church produced the best hard partying heavy rock album of the year, Hygiene, which was packed with miles of riffs and compelling choruses.
Sigrid‘How To Let Go’ seemed a little humble at first, but on the second or third listen I was blown away by how much emotion she manages to put into each song. Mistake Like You in particular is all I want from a sad pop banger. † Eva Harrison
I wasn’t expecting much from the new one Arcade Fire after their two previous albums, So We Was A Pleasant Surprise, returning to the magnanimous stadium indie we all loved in the first place. Unconditional I (Lookout Kid) was a stirring star. † Jess Hutcherson
Cinema got off to a great start in 2022 with Paul Thomas Anderson’s delightful, lazy, funny coming-of-age drama Licorice Pizza, released in the UK on New Year’s Day. Six months later, it’s still my favorite movie of the year. Robert Eggers’ Trippy Viking Epic the Norman confused anyone hoping for Zach Snyder’s 300 with added sloops, but delighted those who loved Eggers’ latest gonzo period work, The Lighthouse. Everything Everywhere All at once was divisive too – I can see why people abhor its overly multidimensional craziness, but I was won over by the sheer breadth of its imagination and a wildly committed central performance from Michelle Yeoh.
At the other end of the scale was Clio Barnard’s Ali and Ava, a beautifully low-key tale of forbidden love in Bradford, and Barnard’s best film since The Selfish Giant. And the most remarkable documentary of the year so far was Taming the gardena Georgia tree theft story that was all the more overwhelming for its almost wordless, factual telling.
I’m not exactly sure how it’s still funny after 20 years to see a succession of Americans subjected to brutal, genital mutilating pranks, but Jackass Forever made me hyperventilate with laughter. Bravo, Knoxville and Co. – Alice Jackson
Despite being ambivalent about the character – I’ve always found him to be something of a libertarian wet dream – I loved the batter† Robert Pattinson (Battinson?) showed me a new side of the character with his grungy take on Bruce Wayne, and I was pleasantly surprised that the plot was more of a gripping noir thriller like Se7en than the superhero fare we’ve grown accustomed to. † Miles Smith
If you’d like to read the full version of this newsletter, sign up to receive The Guide in your inbox every Friday.